The Separation of Church and Hate


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It was one of those tough moments where the air feels oppressive and you start to sweat. A good friend sat across from me on my couch, fumbling with her rings. She had just broken the news to me: “I’m getting a divorce”. It felt weighty, even unbelievable. As she sat on my couch and poured her heart out about how terrible her husband was and how she wanted out of her marriage. I didn’t know what to say.

The ‘old Ruthie’ would have grabbed my Bible off the table and pointed to verses where God says divorce is a sin. I would have begged her to reconsider and rise up and shout, “God hates divorce!” like I grew up hearing church-people say.  Three years ago, I would have made sure she understood from me what God felt about her considering this choice.

I used to be very concerned with fixing people, altering their behavior, making sure their sin list wasn’t too lengthy.

But now? I try to stake my flag in the camp of love. On my couch that day, I could have made a point—but would I have made a difference?

Let me explain. One of my all-time favorite talks from Andy Stanley is “Separation of Church & Hate”. In this sermon, Stanley shows how it’s easier to make a point; to adopt a policy; to put up a billboard or hand out a pamphlet. But making a difference is messier. It requires relating to people with whom we may not agree. But that is exactly what Jesus modeled.

Point-makers drive people away; difference-makers get down in the mud with hurting people.

It’s easy to quote a Bible verse, stay away from certain people, or be ‘against’ something—but making a difference in someone’s life—loving radically despite one’s choices—that’s the hard work. The work that makes all the difference.

I grew up in a family where it seemed we were against everything: gay people, the newspaper, television, even democrats and UGA football.  Many churches get the reputation for being against certain sins, instead of for say helping people in need or loving the broken.

I see too many living in an almost paranoia about sin and retreating to safe, little bubbles where we keep track of sin records and talk about accountability.

It comes naturally to give you five reasons why a certain behavior or lifestyle is wrong. But we can spend all our energy against behaviors, people, and organizations OR we can simply love. I’ve slowly learned the distinction between making a point and making a difference—and difference makers are the ones who make relational evangelism work. People don’t want to become followers of Jesus when we make it look like a list of rules.

This perspective is why Andy Stanley and Pete Wilson don’t stand up in the pulpit and preach against homosexuality. Not because they don’t think it’s wrong, but because they may have a lot of people cheering them on for a controversial message, but all the people cheering are the ones who don’t need the message. The straight people cheer and agree; the homosexuals never want to come back to church.

I love that perspective shift.

I’m different than I was a few years ago, where I was paranoid that I was responsible for everyone else. But now, I’m far more concerned that you know I love you and want to be there for you, like Jesus modeled, than I am if you are having sex, dressing immodestly, or gay.

I know speaking truth is important, so in accordance I told my friend that day I didn’t agree with her choice. But I didn’t argue with her or give her twelve reasons why she was wrong. I just listened—because I didn’t know what it felt like to hate her husband or want out of a marriage. And I’ve come to believe listening is often louder than words.

Are you making a point or a difference in the lives of those around you? Do you see churches as often falling into the category of proving good points week after week, but not making a difference in people’s lives?

If you aren’t a Christian, do think of Christians as people who are always against something? 

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14 Responses to “The Separation of Church and Hate”
  1. Rubi says:

    What a great article! Thank you so much for sharing this message, Ruthie! To be honest, I never thought about the difference between “making a point” and “making a difference.” Wow! This helped clear up a lot of things for me about how to relate to people. We need to quit thinking that we have the responsibility of the Holy Spirit. Only God can change people; we are here to be the hands and feet of Jesus–to love as He loved, not convict and change. That’s what God will take care of if we do our part of loving.

    God bless you!


    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Yes, we don’t have the responsibility nor the ability to change people.

      Glad you found it encouraging & challenging! More loving, less point-making!

  2. karen says:

    Thanks, Ruthie for writing so clearly the ideas that God has working on me over the last year. My son is gay and now that it is legal for him to marry, the reality of attending his wedding is coming. My pastors advised me to go. I have really been unable to fully describe to my friends why I agree with them. I am loving a sinner like me who would not be able to handle the hurt of my apparent lack of love that would mean to him. It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt me to witness it and it also doesn’t mean I approve. It just means I love him. Your post is a keeper for me to refer to when I need to remember why I have softened my position to others who want to take a hard line.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Oh Karen. What a beautiful story! I’m SO SO glad you went! Loving and not condemning is so critical to showing people who Jesus is.

      • k says:

        I watched the video of Andy Stanley’s sermon that you mentioned “The Separation of church and Hate” last night. I am saving it to watch again- there is so much in that sermon that helps me understand how others look at us as Christians. I have relationship with my son that is open enough to be the new Christian that he needs to see. I have so much more hope for the people in my life now that I know how to grow and love them better in regards to the things that we disagree about.

  3. Bex says:

    This is something that I’ve been trying to work on in my own life. I want live in such a way that my convictions about issues (even the “minor” ones like drinking and how to dress) are clear to those around me, and yet still be the person people feel they can approach because they know I’ll listen without judging. I’m getting chances to practice, because a group of us have started an outreach group on college campuses, where we have befriended people who are gay, bi, legalistic, racist, depressed, and otherwise. We don’t compromise our beliefs, yet these friends we make keep coming back because we are so unlike other Christians they have met. I’m still far from perfect at all this, but I enjoy the challenge to try. It’s not my responsibility to change anyone, but it is my responsibility to reflect the love of Christ in order to draw them toward the only One Who CAN fix what’s broken. It’s a tough challenge, and I think it can be heartbreaking, but it can also be wonderful.

    • Rubi says:

      Definitely! I’m so glad you’re getting the opportunity to love on such a diverse group of people! It is a challenge alright, but at the same time I feel like it is a weight lifted off my shoulders because it’s not I who have the responsibility to try to change people anymore, that’s the role God plays in their life. I am just an instrument of love that God is using to show these people that God is LOVE. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. mark says:

    This is an excellent post! Thanks!

  5. Danelle says:

    beautiful written, Ruthie. If we would only look at Jesus’ example we would live life a whole lot more lovingly and less judgmentally.

  6. Mariel says:

    Encouraging article, thank you! Always a pleasure reading your thoughts <3

  7. Esther says:

    Hi Ruthie, thanks for this post. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently – the idea of Christians always being against something. Just last week in the UK, MPs voted to allow same-sex marriage and there’s been lots of talk by Christians who are anti-gay marriage. I’m really struggling with the idea that so often Christians are known for their negativity and being against this and that. Shouldn’t we be known for what we are for? Love, grace, community, truth, justice, life…aren’t we missing the point of Jesus and the cross when we’re always against something? Just adding my thoughts into the mix from across the pond :)

    Thanks for your blog – i love it, very glad I found it :) x

  8. Regine says:

    Hi Ruthie!
    I just found your site and I really like the topics you have here. I have to admit though that Andy Stanley’s teaching troubled me because we live in a world where Christians do need to take a stand. If it means that it appears that we are always against something then, so be it. The secular world appears to be ALWAYS against biblical teachings. Jesus is against sin (anger, fornication, homosexuality, false witness, and the list goes on). If we are known for negativity because we live and speak about biblical truths, then I see nothing wrong with that. He calls us to speak about the hope we have within us with repect and reverence (1Peter3:15). So, in love we should show in our walk and discussions that we do love, but still speak truth. I didn’t get a sense of an absolute stance. His sermon sounded too ambigous for me. Basically, what I am saying is we need to show BALANCE. Give truth and extend grace and love. Too much truth and no one hears you or is interested with a fellowship with Jesus BUT too much grace and little truth or a passive attitude about truth does equal damage. It doesn’t lead to repentence and conviction. I think with prayer, reading God’s word, and the leading of the holy spirit, we would know how to strike the balance with each person we meet. I just don’t want the “all love attitude” to now take precedent. The extremes of either one is no good.

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